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The Eleventh Room

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The Doctor is very much afraid, but he is trying to push that down, to smother it. The creature feeds on fear, doesn't it? Everything points that way. 'Course, he hasn't found his room yet, so he supposes he's going to be fine for now. He needs to be fine, for the Ponds. He can't let Amy or Rory find their rooms. He can't let them down, not after last time. Not after Apalapucia. Not after Rory's choice. It isn't fair. You're turning me into you.

He meets Rita in the staircase, and he's doing it again. Promising the whole of time and space to another young girl; showing a child a suitcase full of sweets. He can't really help it, after all. He promises himself each time: this is the last, no more, and each time, he breaks his promise.

He's back in the hallway now, all alone (didn't he tell them not to be alone?), and then he hears it. The whispers, the chants. Praise him. Praise him. Praise him.

Just one peek, he thinks. Just one little peek, just so I'll know. Just so he'll know exactly what he fears the most; just so he can figure out how to save his Ponds.

Everything seems to slow down. His vision focuses on the room number—eleven, how fitting—and he breathes in deeply, suddenly wary. But no, he has to know now, he has to. His hand drifts to the doorknob almost without his knowledge, nearly caressing the last thing between him and his greatest fear. At last, he musters up the courage to twist and push open the door, green eyes peering into the darkness. He takes it slow—what if his greatest fear is that Gesuvivian jumping spider that nearly took off his head last week?—but eventually the door is open wide enough to hear the cloister bell chiming, to see exactly what this damnable hotel dragged up from the darkest corners of his mind.

"Of course," he says, a smile that doesn't reach his eyes forming. "Who else?"

It's the TARDIS control room, stuffed with everyone he's ever let down. They're all staring, silently accusing him, their gazes dark. To his left, Susan is standing next to Astrid and a young Amelia Pond. Donna peeks out from around Adric's shoulder with a blank, forgetful look. The Doctor quickly looks to the left, only to find Jack and Peri grouped with Romana and Jamie in his kilt. Koschei—for he isn't the Master yet, the madness hasn't yet taken hold—absently taps out his four-beat rhythm on the console. Sarah Jane leans against the railing and glares at the Doctor, arms folded across her chest. The TARDIS herself is in disrepair and the lights flicker and dim in time to the cloister bell's chime. He can see even more people in the back, a line of blank faces reaching all the way to the hall.

And right there in the middle are the eyes the Doctor has been avoiding. Rose and the Metacrisis stand tall, hand-in-hand, unsympathetic and stoic.

The Doctor quickly grabs the "Please Do Not Disturb" sign and places it on the doorknob, closing the door. No one else needs to see that. No one else needs to know the shame that eats at his core and suffocates him. He doesn't even look back as he rushes away.

The image of his room he pushes back to the farthest reaches of his mind, back to where it was before the hotel dragged it up. Guilt can wait for another time.

Right now, he just needs to get his Ponds safe.